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Celina Caesar-Chavannes quits Liberal caucus, sits as independent MP

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OTTAWA — Celina Caesar-Chavannes has informed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that she’s leaving the federal Liberal caucus and will sit as an independent MP.

The Whitby, Ont., MP has been a vocal supporter of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott — two cabinet ministers who resigned over the SNC-Lavalin affair.

She also accused Trudeau earlier this month of reacting with anger and hostility when she informed him that she would not be seeking re-election this fall.

Caesar-Chavannes, first elected in 2015, has been a relatively high-profile backbencher, primarily as an advocate for the rights of black Canadians.

She also made news in 2016 when she openly talked about her battle with depression.

At the time, Caesar-Chavannes, who was initially named parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, praised Trudeau’s understanding of mental illness but she has since soured on his leadership.

The Canadian Press

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Poll suggests majority of Canadians favour limiting immigration levels

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OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says he is concerned by numbers in a new poll that suggest a majority of Canadians believe the federal government should limit the number of immigrants it accepts.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents to a recent Leger poll said the government should prioritize limiting immigration levels, while just 37 per cent said the priority should be on increasing the number of immigrants to meet economic demands.

Hussen says the result is concerning because he has heard directly from employers who are in desperate need of workers, and immigration is key to meeting those needs.

He says he understands some Canadians may be worried about the ability of communities to absorb more newcomers due to housing and other infrastructure shortages, but he says the answer is to invest more in those areas rather than cut immigration.

The poll suggests Conservative voters are far more likely to disagree with Hussen — 81 per cent of Conservative respondents said they favoured limiting immigration levels, while 41 per cent of Liberals, 44 per cent of NDP supporters and 57 per cent of Greens were in favour.

The online survey of 1,528 Canadians, randomly recruited from Leger’s online panel, was conducted between June 7 and 10 for The Canadian Press. 

The Canadian Press

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NDP promise to expand universal health care, starting with national drug plan

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HAMILTON — The federal NDP says if it is elected this fall it will expand Canada’s health-care system, starting with fast-tracking a universal drug plan to ensure a late 2020 start date.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says if his party forms government after the October federal election, it will inject $10 billion annually into a national pharmacare program.

The NDP proposal would see the pharmacare program start sooner than an expert panel recently recommended.

The panel said a national list of prescription drugs for pharmacare should be established by Jan. 1, 2022, and be expanded no later than Jan. 1, 2027.

The NDP policy comes in a new “commitments document” — dubbed A New Deal for People — unveiled today at the Ontario NDP convention in Hamilton.

In remarks provided to the media in advance of his convention speech Sunday morning, Singh says the plan would save families who already have insurance coverage $550 a year.

“For the first time, every single Canadian can count on this,” he said. “If you need medication, if someone you love needs medication, you can get it — period. Paid for with your health card, not your credit card.”

Singh said the NDP plan would also eventually expand universal coverage to dental, vision and hearing care as well.

The 109-page document also contains promises to create 500,000 more affordable housing units, expand grant programs for post-secondary education and address the cost of cellphone service and high-speed broadband.

The party is pledging to spend a billion dollars in 2020 to enhance child care across the country.

The document also promises to restore door-to-door mail delivery to all communities that have lost it — which would cost $100 million — and to establish a gasoline-price watchdog to monitor fuel prices and prevent “gouging.”

The party says it would raise government revenues to pay for its policies through a number of measures including increasing corporate taxes and by creating a so-called “wealth tax.”

Taxes on the richest Canadians — those with net worth of $20 million or more — would jump by one per cent, generating several billion dollars annually in revenue.

“The Liberals and Conservatives have been working for the people at the very top instead of working for you,” Singh said. “We are going to change that.”

The party would roll back corporate tax cuts provided by previous governments to 2010 levels, an increase from the current 15 to 18 per cent, generating billions more for government coffers a year.

Singh said the party would also institute a 15 per cent foreign buyers tax on residential purchases to prevent housing markets from overheating.

The NDP does not make a specific promise to balance the federal budget.

“In all cases, we will manage debt and deficits responsibly, borrowing when required to defend the services that Canadians and their families rely on, and moving to balance when prudent,” the document says.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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